‘Federal Government is Failing Miserably,’ Iowa Senator Says of Policy That Separated Migrant Families

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WASHINGTON, D.C.  --  Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said during a hearing on Tuesday that while President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy on illegal immigration may have been well-intentioned, its impact falls well short of what should be expected.

"If families and children are going to be kept in federal custody, they must be kept in facilities where they will be treated humanely and with the basic dignity that all people, no matter what their immigration status is," Grassley said during the hearing that featured testimony from five Trump officials. "Unfortunately, recent media reporting I've seen suggests the federal government is failing miserably in the task that I've just described."

The Associated Press detailed complaints that suspected undocumented immigrants were beaten, mistreated and sexually abused while in detention. 

On Monday, Grassley, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, demanded answers on the allegations of abuse. 

Five Trump officials testified before Grassley's committee in Washington, D.C. They included:

  • Acting Chief Carla Provost: U.S. Border Patrol
  • Executive Associate Director Matthew Albence: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Commander Jonathan White: U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
  • Director James R. McHenry: Executive Office for Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Associate Director Jennifer Higgins: Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

White confirmed to the committee that he warned the Trump administration that the policy that would separate migrant families could harm children. He said, "There is no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child."

Grassley released figures of the number of children impacted.

  • More than 2,500 illegal immigrant children separated from their parents.
  • 1,442 reunited (as of last Thursday)
  • 378 have been released to other individuals.
  • 711 still in government custody and are unable to be reunited with their parents. (Of those 711, 120 ineligible to reunite because parents waived that right, 67 not released because of concerns of potential abuse or criminal activity).
  • 431 children (of the 711) ineligible for reunification because their parents had already been deported.

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